The Mask of Sanity: Psychopath-in-Chief?

Does this sound like someone we all know?

“Poverty of emotional feelings, lack of remorse or shame, superficial charm, pathological lying, egocentricity, a lack of insight, absence of nervousness, an inability to love, impulsive antisocial acts, failure to learn from experience.”

It’s a summary (by Richard Lynn) of the first ten of sixteen behavioral traits of the psychopathic personality from the classic work on the subject, Hervey Cleckley’s The Mask of Sanity.  The book will be seventy-five years old next year. 

It’s given to few individuals to describe a new human type.   Cleckley did it twice.  With Corbett Thigpen, he published Three Faces of Eve in 1957.  The movie version released later that year launched Joanne Woodward’s career and familiarized Americans with what came later to be called dissociative identity disorder. 

Psychopathology, like multiple personalities, had been described before.  It was called “moral insanity,” by the 19th century British physician J. C. Pritchard: “a morbid perversion of the natural feelings.”  But Cleckley was the first to study it systematically and describe it in detail.

Among his patients at a VA hospital, Cleckley, a professor at University of Georgia Medical School, was intrigued by the sometimes charming, glib, superficially intelligent, but utterly unscrupulous individuals he called psychopaths.  None had sought treatment voluntarily.  They’d all been impeached, so to speak, by those they’d lied to.

Of course like all personality disorders, psychopathology is distributed widely, in less virulent forms, across a large population.  Nearly everyone feels depressed occasionally, but only about 7% of Americans are clinically depressed.  However, the distribution of psychopaths or sociopaths (Cleckley in later editions uses the words interchangeably) is not geographically random.  There is undoubtedly a high concentration in Washington, D.C.  But even among Democrats, few display so blatantly so many of the classic features described by the Georgia psychiatrist as the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

But there are a couple of ways the President deviates from the classic profile.  Cleckley’s characteristic #15 reads:  “sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated.”  Obama’s future biographers will reveal whether this is accurate or not. 

Number 16 is “failure to follow any life plan.”  Here the President departs dramatically from the checklist.  He has pursued higher office relentlessly and ruthlessly since he was a teenager.  And his goals have not deviated.  He has sought to “fundamentally transform” America.  This means socialism -- extending government control of the economy in the name of “social justice.”  It means further exploitation and disenfranchisement of European-Americans (aka whites), support of Muslims and persecution of Christians and the subversion of Judeo-Christian values, and, overseas, reducing American power and influence, and promoting the interests of Islam.

Cleckley also observed in psychopaths the “absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.”  Here, too, the President doesn’t conform to the profile.  The basis of his political beliefs is delusional:  the West is evil, exploiting the Third World through colonialism, just as its own workers are exploited by capitalism, and is now irreparably and catastrophically destroying the climate.

But Cleckley, who read widely and gave some thought to social problems, would probably not have been surprised that delusions are now the conventional wisdom of Americans.  He was disturbed by what he called “a rapt predilection of small but influential cults of intellectuals or esthetes for what is generally regarded as perverse, dispirited, or distastefully unintelligible.”   He was thinking specifically of Nobel Prizes awarded to Ezra Pound and André Gide, “who insists that pederasty is the superior and preferable way of life for adolescent boys,” and the accolades given Finnegan’s Wake, “a 628-page collection of erudite gibberish indistinguishable to most people from the familiar word salad produced by hebephrenic patients.”  He was troubled by what he perceived as the growing acceptance of homosexuality on the part of elites, even in the 1950s, and wrote a book on the subject, The Caricature of Love.

With a few notable exceptions, Jack Cashill’s Deconstruction Obama, Stanley Kurtz’s Radical-in-Chief, Dinesh d’Souza’s The Roots of Obama’s Rage, Steve Sailer’s America’s Half-Blood Prince, biographies of the President have flown to the remainder table at warp speed -- deservedly.  One day, when candid, thorough, dispassionate studies of our first post-racial President are written, we’ll have a better idea of the psychopathology this cold-blooded seducer of a nation.  Before they sit down with their notes, Obama’s future biographers might want to take a look at The Mask of Sanity.